Saying thanks to American agriculture

National Ag Week is March 18 to 24 and it is being celebrated across the country and while it falls during calving season, spring break and March Madness, the week is one that is rightfully revered.

The week is set aside to recognize agriculture for what it is—an economic powerhouse on a global scale.

Agriculture, food and related industries contributed $992 billion to the United States gross domestic product in 2015, a 5.5 percent share and the output of America’s farms contributed $136.7 billion of the sum—about 1 percent of GDP, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service.

Americans now spend about 13 percent of their household budgets on food.

It is easy when commodity prices are high to recognize the importance of agriculture. In this challenging era it is even more important to note the achievements of the industry that myself and colleagues have the privilege to work in.

Over the years National Ag Week celebrates the entire industry, from machinery equipment manufacturers to seed companies to pharmaceutical sales to truck makers and to the importance of professional service providers.

The agribusiness firms are deserving of this recognition for what they do and yet

when I reflect upon National Ag Week I always think first of farmers and ranchers. The successful farmers operate as independent businessmen and women. In many ways they reflect the principles of the businesses that provide them with machinery, seed, pharmaceuticals, trucks and professional services.

And they continue to have the core values most easily understood with the purchasing of major items. For many years they were accomplished with a handshake—an indication of trust and honesty.

My appreciation of farmers and ranchers continues to grow. They have a front row seat to the beautiful sunrises and sunsets that only a rural landscape can paint. During the busiest of seasons, they will take time to help a stranded motorist who needs a tire fixed or having a dead battery looked at.

Much of what they produce is highly sought and yet for the vast majority of farmers and ranchers it goes into a market place that is not always so willing to reward them for the investment they have made in raising a quality crop or animal. In recent years they also have to spend time keeping up on state and federal regulations—some necessary while others are not fit for a litter box.

With all the information available they face the challenge of knowing that some of their products are bashed by uninformed activists who take advantage of a system of cheap food while preaching an approach that is unrealistic for most consumers.

Our system of producing “cheap food” is one an underappreciated story that is not told often enough or explained to consumers at all.

This National Ag Week—before many producers enter their spring fields—provides me with an opportunity to say thanks. I am proud to say I have not forgotten them.